икони на светциOne of the most disturbing aspects of parenting following a divorce is discovering that your Ex has been putting you down or confiding about your negative qualities to the children. It pushes your innocent children (and they’re all innocent regardless of their age) into adult situations that are beyond their full comprehension. It forces them to take sides or try to defend a parent who isn’t there. And it robs them of their childhood, even when they’re teens!
That’s why it’s so important for both divorcing parents to agree never to badmouth one another during or after a divorce, as tempting as that may be.
Learning from your child that your former spouse said something disparaging about you brings up all sorts of negative emotions. You feel violated, defenseless and wronged, especially when the story relayed is distorted or slanted in your Ex’s direction.
When this happens our natural reaction is to deny those lies and then passionately share the truth of what “really” happened. You want your child to get your side of the story and hear about what you had to put up with that you overlooked for so long. And now you have the chance to do just that.
No doubt, this is an especially hurtful situation. When we contemplate what our children think about us and how that has been distorted by their other parent, it can be insulting, humiliating and totally disrespectful. Are your children judging you? Taking sides against you? Looking down on you? It’s only natural to feel that way. But how should you respond?
Tough as it may be, I suggest you resist the temptation to strike back. Don’t tell your version and set the story straight – because if you do you will likely do more harm to the kids.
Children naturally love both parents. They don’t want to get caught up in your drama and hear negative stories about Mom or Dad. When they do, they suffer emotionally. By defending your “take” on the divorce story you’re fueling the tension between you and your Ex and leaving it in the lap of the children you love!
If you asked your children how they feel when they hear disparaging comments about one of their parents, they’ll tell you they hate it. It makes them confused, torn and angry about being in a position where they have to take sides.
So how do you handle this most difficult situation? Your best approach is to stay neutral. Don’t attack back or try to defend yourself. Your children will feel more relieved to hear you simply say, “Mom and I got divorced because we couldn’t get along with one another.” If they probe for more details remind them that’s between you and Mom. Then repeat, “We got divorced because we couldn’t get along. That’s it.”
While it may seem infuriating to not defend yourself against accusations being hurled to your kids, staying out of the fray, and being non-reactive, will pay off for you over time. As your children grow older their perspective about the divorce will change. They will come to respect you more as they understand that taking the high road is the more mature and responsible approach to a very challenging situation.
Often children who have been alienated from their other parent or continuously exposed to negative feedback about that parent will turn around as young adults and come to resent the bad-mouthing parent. They’ll question the stories they’ve been “fed” and resent the burden placed upon them to handle all that negative energy.
Ultimately your children will come to their own conclusions about the divorce, your parenting and their childhood experiences. You don’t want to be the parent guilty of trying to turn their children against the other parent they love.
Temped to set the record straight? Want to show your children how wronged you’ve been? Stop and think before you add to the drama and heightened emotions. If you value the philosophy behind a Child-Centered Divorce, work to be the role model your children deserve. No doubt, this isn’t the easy way out. But in the end you’ll respect yourself more – and so will your children!
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Rosalind Sedacca, Founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network, is the author of How Do I Tell the Kids … about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook™ Guide to Preparing Your Children – with Love! To learn more about the ebook, visit http://www.howdoitellthekids.com. For free articles, her free ezine, coaching services and other valuable resources for parents, visit: www.childcentereddivorce.com.